Friday

20th Apr 2018

US and Germany say No to Poland on Nato base

  • Von der Leyen: "Russia is not our enemy, but it’s no longer our partner" (Photo: 1GNC Munster)

The US and Germany have unequivocally said that Nato will not build new bases in Poland, citing tactical and political reasons.

“Nato’s not talking about establishing bases … we support an enhanced presence, but we can do it without bases, bases, bases,” James Townsend, a senior Pentagon official, said in Bratislava on Friday (15 April).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Pavel: "Modern warfare is not about static lines" (Photo: 1st BCT, 1st CD)

His comment came at the Globsec conference in the Slovak capital after Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, said he wanted “presence, presence, presence and once again presence” of Nato troops to act as a “symbol of readiness to defend the eastern flank.”

Speaking also at Globsec earlier on Friday, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen said Nato deterrence of Russia “is not a question of permanent bases, it’s a question of smart movement.”

She said that Nato’s new rapid reaction force is enough to ensure that “Russia should not even think about trying” to destabilise Poland or one of the Baltic states.

The Polish appeal comes ahead of a Nato summit in Warsaw in July.

Nato defence ministers in February already decided in favour of “continuous rotational” presence instead of new bases.

But Waszczykowski in Bratislava asked for more.

“We expect decisions that change the security status of this region. Although we belong to the same institution [Nato] there are different statuses - a better one in the west and a different one on the so-called eastern flank. There are no troops deployed here permanently, no military facilities owned by Nato,” he said.

“We expect the Nato summit to change the situation.”

The Nato rapid reaction force is to include about 4,000 US troops that will “rotate” in and out of the Baltic region - deploy in different areas in temporary facilities for a few months at a time.

It will include warehouses full of US tanks near Russia’s borders that can be quickly deployed.

The Warsaw summit will also discuss giving Nato commanders the flexibility to react to hostile acts without first holding political talks in Brussels, Townsend said.

It will send the message that Nato is ready to use its nuclear deterrent if need be in reaction to Russia’s nuclear sabre-rattling, he added.

Modern warfare

Petr Pavel, a Czech general and a senior Nato official, said new bases might act as a “political deterrent” but have little value in tactical terms.

“Modern warfare is not about static lines and huge banks of steel … it’s about mobility and the ability to project power in different areas and at different levels,” he said.

“To build a permanent new base … you’re just adding one item to your adversary’s target list.”

Townsend dismissed Russia’s claim that there was a post-Cold War deal for Nato to stay away from its neighbourhood.

“There was never a promise made to them that I know of on the shape of Nato forces other than the Nato-Russia founding act,” he said.

The 1997 treaty commits Nato to avoid “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces" close to Russia, but only “in the current … security environment.”

Germany’s Von der Leyen said that Russia unilaterally “left” the treaty when it invaded Ukraine.

Political effort

But she said that Nato should “stick to our commitments” in order to keep the moral high ground.

Pavel also said that Nato was making a “political effort not to escalate” the situation.

“We’re keeping a very low profile. Our [rapid reaction] force is not there to threaten … We’re not trying to bring a significant military force to the [Russian] border.”

Von der Leyen said that Germany was “ready for dialogue” with Russia but only if Russia was willing to respect international law.

She said its invasion of Ukraine was a “bitter awakening” for Germany. “Russia is not our enemy, but it’s no longer our partner,” she said.

She defended the West’s decision not to give Ukraine military support “because we would have had a bloody war on Ukraine’s soil.”

“The most vulnerable part of Russia is its economy … so we answered by targeting their most vulnerable point to make them understand,” she said, referring to EU economic sanctions on Russia.

Ian Brzezinski, a former Pentagon official who now works for the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, told EUobserver that Von der Leyen’s words would be “demoralising” for Ukraine, which has lost over 9,000 people in the war.

Provocation

He predicted that Russia will stage a military provocation ahead of the Warsaw summit.

Unarmed Russian jets simulated attacks on a US warship, the USS Donald Cook, in the Baltic Sea over a three-day period earlier this week, the Pentagon's Townsend said.

“We were in international waters, where you’d expect safe passage, not to be buzzed constantly,” he said. “We do not buzz Russian ships,” he added.

Nato’s Pavel said: “I don’t believe that, in the current circumstances, Russia will try to destabilise the [Nato] summit.”

“They’re trying to be more open and to enter into a dialogue, so any bigger provocation wouldn’t suit that purpose.”

Nato and Russia will next week hold the first meeting of a joint Council since the Ukraine war.

Alexander Vershbow, the Nato deputy head, said in Bratislava that Nato will urge Russia to avoid military manouevres that could cause an “accidental conflict.”

“It’s [the Coucil meeting] not meant in any way to signal a normalisation of relations with Russia,” he said.

Russia's EU neighbours boost arms spending

Fear of Russia saw easterly EU states post some of the sharpest increases in arms spending in the world last year, according to Swedish think tank Sipri.

US military plans for Europe prompt Russian warning

The US has unveiled fresh details of its plan to create a Russia-deterrent force in eastern Europe, prompting Russia to warn of an “asymmetric response” and of a potential "crisis".

Nato and Russia trade accusations

Renewed Nato-Russia talks ended in “profound disagreement” on Wednesday (20 April) over Ukraine and over Russia’s harassment of Nato assets.

EU toes the line on Syria air strikes

EU foreign ministers to back Western air strikes on Syria, the same way they backed the UK over Russia's chemical attack on an ex-spy in Britain.

Analysis

Is Germany more hawkish on Russia?

Germany's socialist foreign minister just said the EU should "step up pressure" on Russia. Merkel aired "political" doubts on a Russian pipeline.

Analysis

Is Germany more hawkish on Russia?

Germany's socialist foreign minister just said the EU should "step up pressure" on Russia. Merkel aired "political" doubts on a Russian pipeline.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  2. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  3. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  4. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  5. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  6. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  7. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit
  8. Merkel and Macron meet to finetune eurozone reform plans

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeParabéNs! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  2. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  3. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  4. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  5. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  6. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  10. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector

Latest News

  1. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  2. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  3. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  4. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists
  5. Getting secret EU trilogue documents: a case study
  6. Selmayr case scars Parliament and Commission
  7. Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties
  8. 'Flobert' guns - Europe's latest terror loophole

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  2. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  3. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  4. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  5. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  6. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  7. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  8. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  9. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  10. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  11. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  12. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership